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911 emergency center for Randolph Co. expected to be approved

by James Fisher

STAFF WRITER

Randolph County commissioners expect to adopt a resolution today to begin working on instituting a county-wide 911 emergency response center, said Commissioner and 911 Committee member Andy Wamsley.

"They have it in rough draft right now, but it's looking pretty good," Wamsley said Monday. "The commissioners have received copies of the rough draft and we've all had a chance to take it home and look it over, so I would expect that we would pass it (today) or next Tuesday for sure."

Last week, commissioners approved a committee to help set up the emergency telephone system.

Committee members include Wamsley, West Virginia State Police Sgt. M.B. Cunningham, Randolph County Sheriff Paul Brady, Elkins Police Department Officer Bill Rowe, Randolph County Emergency Squad member Cecil Lanham, Office of Emergency Services co-director Russell Doerr and Leading Creek Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charles Moats.

"(OES co-director) Marvin Hill has been doing a majority of the leg-work on this," Wamsley said. "He went to Harrison County, Taylor County, Lewis County, Barbour County and Upshur County, that I know of, and got copies of their proposals to see how they set up their systems. He's done just a tremendous job on this."

Once the resolution is passed, Wamsley said Randolph County should have emergency 911 in place within two years. Residents will be charged between $2.50 and $3 per month on their telephone bills to help pay for the service. Randolph County also will have access to a special account with $80,000 from cellular telephone service fees to assist with initial start-up costs.

Wamsley said Randolph County has three or four different telephone companies providing service to about 10,000 customers, and all have agreed to charge for the 911 service, Wamsley said.

One major expensive and time-consuming process that must occur first is mapping of the county, Wamsley said. Many of the county's police and emergency crews also must upgrade their radios, which can also be expensive, he said.

"Right now, mapping the county is the biggest thing," Wamsley said. "I think the committee will shortly put out feelers for bids for the mapping."

Wamsley said mapping the county will probably cost between $125,000-$275,000.

One expense that the county may be able to save is finding or building a suitable facility because the county commission already has a building in mind. The Office of Emergency Services currently occupies space near the airport, he said, that may be used with just a few interior modifications.

Wamsley said a central 911 emergency telephone service is something that the county needs.

"Just looking at my phone, I have three different emergency numbers," he said. "With 911, you can teach children to dial it and it's an easy number for everyone to remember. I think we're ready for 911 now.

"A lot of the people who opposed it several years ago are now out speaking for it," he said.

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